In a statement issued last week, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) announced that it resolved a familial status fair housing case from California for $10,000.

The complaint, initially filed with HUD by a local fair housing tester group, asserted that families with children were being denied the opportunity to rent homes and/or that families with children were being offered less favorable terms and conditions for their home rentals. Additionally, the fair housing testers claimed that the property owners/managers used a strict two persons per bedroom occupancy standard in contravention of current law at two properties. If proven, these allegations could be found to violate the Fair Housing Act.

While there was a time years ago in which a two person per bedroom rule was considered reasonable, a best practice in 2020 is to not have a rigid occupancy standard, but use one which relies on the size of each respective bedroom as well as if there is, for example, a den or family room in the unit.  Indeed, some jurisdictions have changed their law to make clear that a two plus one (or three persons per bedroom) rule is a better occupancy standard for property management to use.

To be sure, am I writing that management must accept 8 people in a two bedroom unit? Of course not. But, depending on the living space in the home, it may well be appropriate for a family of five. The point is that leasing office team members need training to work through the specifics of how many residents can/should live in a home. But strict enforcement of the old two heartbeats per bedroom guideline can increase the chances that you will need to speak with a lawyer like me.

While the owners and managers involved in this case denied wrongdoing (and I know there are always at least two sides to every story), in addition to the money, the owners also promised to withdraw their two persons per bedroom occupancy standard, change their advertising and marketing materials as well as agree they will send anyone who interacts with applicants and residents to fair housing training.

Just A Thought.